The more you travel for business the worse it is for your health, a new study says.

Workers who travel 21 days per month or more have a 92 per cent greater risk of obesity than those who travel one to six days per month, according to researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York.

“Compared to those who spent one to six nights a month away from home for business travel, those who spent 14 or more nights away from home per month had significantly higher body mass index scores and were significantly more likely to report the following: poor self-rated health; clinical symptoms of anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence; no physical activity or exercise; smoking; and trouble sleeping,” researcher Andrew Rundle, associate professor of epidemiology in the Mailman School of Public Health, wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

Frequent business travellers also had higher blood pressure and lower levels of the “good” cholesterol high density lipoprotein than those who travelled more infrequently.

“While many workplace health programmes for business travel provide immunisations, information about avoiding food-borne illness, and alerts about civil or political unrest, few focus on a more a common threat to health: the stress, sleep interruption, unhealthy eating and drinking, and lack of exercise that are common side effects of being on the road,” wrote Rundle.

“Over the long-term, these issues can add up to chronic disease risks.”

Fortunately, only 12 per cent of business travellers studied were on the road more than 14 days monthly, Rundle noted, and frequent travellers can improve their odds of good health by carving out time for exercise and making better choices about food and alcohol.

“The steak with fries and a late-night cocktail at the hotel bar might seem easily justifiable as a reward for acing a long day of client meetings,” he notes.

“But research finds that restaurant food contains more calories per serving, is higher in total fat and saturated fat per calorie, and contains less dietary fibre than meals prepared at home. Research also suggests that the higher calorie content of restaurant food is compounded by chronic stress, like that caused by frequent business travel, which is linked to preferences for even more high calorie foods.

“Given this, employers should help employees learn to identify and select the healthiest options available.”

The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.